When Winsome Nisbett tore off her full-length dress to reveal a sequined, bikini-like carnivale outfit and danced off the stage, one onlooker heard what he described as “the sound of jaws dropping onto the floor.”
The 2006 Miss UT International had arrived, and Vaughn Courtyard was transformed into stadium of screaming fans. The onlooker was Jeremy Whited, who now had the task of leading the audience through the three-hour event.
Most of the spectators came to support individual candidates, carrying signs and flags of their countries, some of them with paint on their faces. Organizations such as CSA formed mobs around the rented white tent, offering the most feedback and often contributing to delegates’ success.
Pride was certainly the determining factor during the first round. Delegates took the stage outfitted in authentic and traditional clothing from their respective countries and stated why they are proud to represent it. Winner Jalene Goodwin traveled back to Trinidad and Tobago during spring break to retrieve her traditional wear for the competition.
After the first round, contestants spent the rest of the evening in formal gowns, answering questions on global issues and diversity. None of them hesitated in delivering an answer. When asked about the importance of a cultural education, China delegate Rosy Wu responded, “A lot of times, [cultural education] teaches stereotypes.”
Morocco representative, Nawal Yassine said in the final round that she would like to meet George W. Bush in order to question his knowledge of Arabic peoples and to challenge the stereotypes that prevail in American society. “It would be a very interesting conversation,” she said.
For the each of the delegates, the night of the pageant was only a presentation of months of rehearsals. Besides developing their public speaking abilities, the girls bonded during the frequent community service events and talked during rehearsal breaks. “It brought a lot of cultures together. We’ve learned a lot from each other” said Jamaica delegate Shana Simpson.
In the aftermath of months of work, Goodwin sat beside her mother with a bouquet of flowers, mobbed by congratulating peers and crowned with a sparkling tiara. “You’re lucky to have such a wonderful daughter,” one contestant said to her mother, Lois Sperang.
When asked about her response to her daughter being crowned the new Miss UT International, Sperang replied, “I am delighted. She has that regal air about her, though I may be a bit biased.”